BRATTON…Update on Rail Trail, Update on Manu Koenig, Tim Eagan’s new book, Oscar Performances, Special Ukraine comedy series, Film critiques, Live Here Now. GREENSITE…on Library Manipulations. KROHN…repeat of 2017 and growth, mountain bikes, UCSC parking, rent control. STEINBRUNER…will be back in the saddle next week. HAYES…The arrival of Spring. PATTON…The Tiger Team. MATLOCK… NOT A LOT OF WISDOM SHOWN IN STAMPEDE TO THE PRIMARIES. EAGAN… Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover QUOTES…”April”
DATELINE March 28
UPDATE ON RAIL TRAIL…GREENWAY SKULLDUGGERY.
It’s extra encouraging when readers respond and send in material that I’d likely miss due to time constraints and availability. Here’s news and opinion and facts about that Greenway problem from another reader these issues won’t just go away.
Independent Bay Area Transit Org Issues Scathing Greenway Statement
The Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, known as TRANSDEF, is a non-profit environmental organization created by transit activists to advocate for better solutions to transportation, land use and air quality problems in the San Francisco Bay Area. TRANSDEF promotes cost-effective transit, Smart Growth, and market-based pricing as fiscally and environmentally preferable responses to traffic congestion.
TRANSDEF read the county staff report analyzing the Greenway ballot measure and found it to be woefully inadequate. The negative effects of this measure on our ability to address the real transportation needs of our community is striking. We should all be aware of the consequences this deceptive measure will dish out. In their letter to the Board of Supervisors, TRANSDEF found more than eleven negative impacts to our county from the Greenway Ballot Measure. This includes blocking a key transportation corridor that could help reduce traffic and emissions.
“The [Greenway] Initiative would block the only non-highway high-capacity transit mode available to the County “to reduce automobile trips and congestion.” It would also block commuter rail’s ability to reduce the impact of weekend beach traffic.” – David Schonbrunn, President TRANSDEF.
UPDATE ON MANU KOENIG. Last week I printed some rumors, guesses, ideas referring to Manu Koenig. I asked if Paul Koenig was Manu’s real first name…nope, one reader/researcher sent this.. “It looks like Paul Koenig is Manu’s Brother, who now lives in Hawaii”. Then he attached some details stating that Paul Koenig is 24 years old and lives in Hawaii and is related to Raimanu S. Koenig. He added that…” Karl Koenig is their father and lives in a pretty large plot on Redwood Rd North of Watsonville. Another reader sent…”Paul is Manu’s brother. Manu was a co-founder of Civinomics with Robert Singleton.
TIM EAGAN TIME…
Support your local cartoonist! Tim Eagan has been using his time wisely during the pandemic. His first graphic novel, Head First, will be crowdfunding live on the kickstarter.com beginning March 30th. It’s based on his strip Subconscious Comics, and Tim says it’s the biggest single cartoon project he’s ever taken on. Here’s the link
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing deal, and the campaign is only up for the month of April. If you are a Subconscious Comics fan, you need this book!
THE OSCAR WENT TO… What an unusual Oscar celebration!!! If it wasn’t for Will Smith slapping Chris Rock there’d be nothing else worth mentioning. I predicted that Smith would get the Oscar but few critics predicted that Coda would be best picture. I thought Coda was just another Hallmark tear jerker average movie. Kristen Stewart’s wearing designer shorts was about the next most newsworthy item this year. Drive My Car and Belfast at least got some notices and awards. The show itself was even worse this year due to ABC’s money making huge numbers of commercials and the Academy’s choices of hosts and humor. At least Will Smith didn’t punch Chris rock and just maybe Smith had a few things on his mind that night. There’s his wife’s alopecia and Chris Rock’s last joke on both her and Will when he did the awards back in 2016. By Monday afternoon (3/28) Smith publically apologized to Rock and stated his behavior was “unacceptable and inexcusable”. So that part is over now it’ll be odd when the Academy decides to either announce actions or dismissals in the next few days.
EXTRA SPECIAL TV SERIES. Forgetting the Academy Awards debacle for a moment I earnestly urge you to view “SERVANT OF THE PEOPLE” A Netflix Series made in 2015 that now has a 100 Rotten Tomatoes from critics, 100 from viewers and 7.4 IMDB. The reason it’s so watchable and enjoyable is because the star/lead in the series is none other than Volodymyr Zelensky himself the president of the Ukraine. In the very first episode (they only run about 25 minutes) Zelensky is a history teacher who suddenly becomes President of the Ukraine. It’s funny, good humored and it gives us a chance to “know” Zelensky himself, who is a very likable, intelligent human being. If you stop to think about it we’ve had both body builder Arnold Schwarzenegger and astrology believer Ronald Reagan as our political leaders and where did those clowns get us? Zelensky is much more personable and talented then those guys.
Be sure to tune in to my very newest movie streaming reviews live on KZSC 88.1 fm every Friday from about 8:10 – 8:30 am. on the Bushwhackers Breakfast Club program hosted by Dangerous Dan Orange.
SERVANT OF THE PEOPLE. The Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky stars in this Netflix series….see above details.
PSEUDO. (HBO MAX MOVIE) (5.7 IMDB) It’s Bolivia and we watch while a conniving taxi cab driver steals money, robs passengers and gets deeply involved in a plot to kill an important politician. There’s run ins between two gangs, lots of politics poorly explained, and plot holes like you wouldn’t believe. Watchable but unforgettable.
DON’T KILL ME. (NETFLIX MOVIE). (4.2 IMDB). Two teenagers in love go crazy and crash to death in a car flipover. They come back from their graves and seek revenge for some reason. They can only stay active by eating people. They are referred to as “the overdead” and there are no reasons why anyone should care (or watch this one).
MARILYN’S EYES. (NETFLIX MOVIE). (6.6 IMDB).This probing movie is titled a comedy but it probes deep and yet thinly into the lives of a mental health therapy group. Actors and real live people portray folks with Tourette’s syndrome plus mental and physical disabilities. I tried but couldn’t find anything comedic about this and watched about 20 minutes of only the first episode.
MASTER. (AMAZON PRIME MOVIE) (75RT). An amazingly deep and dark portrayal of the racial prejudice found in a so called enlightened university near Boston. It’s been called a horror film by the distributors but the horror is really the fake and phony treatment by so many in our world today. It’s deeper than intended and better than predicted. Don’t miss it.
COMPARTMENT NUMBER 6. (Del Mar Theatre movie) (96RT). A lonely young woman meets a rugged, rude, and mysterious man while she’s on her way to view petroglyphs in Russia. This is a beautifully told story of the two of them and how they react to their all too human touches while they share a tiny compartment onboard a train. It’s deep, touching, well-acted and expertly produced, do not miss this one
THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD. (Returned to Del Mar Theatre) (7.9 IMDB). (96RT). Along with two Oscar nominations this is one fine movie. There are genuine laughs plus some painful scenes when we watch this near 30 year old woman go through the changes and questions that face her while being in and out of love. It’s a Norwegian film and the fifth one directed by Joachim Trier. You’ll recognize each and nearly every one of the dilemmas she faces in her bohemian social circle. Don’t miss it.
WE CRASHED. (APPLE TV SERIES) (NO RT) (7.0 IMDB). Based on true events Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto reenact the growth and prenominal failure of WeWork which was a high tech office rental space much like Ryan Coonerty’s NextSpace here in Santa Cruz. It’s partly funny but just another movie about startups in the tech age that fail but rob many people on the way to success and failure.
THE WEEKEND AWAY. (NETFLIX MOVIE). (50 RT) (5.6 IMDB). A gorgeous scenic tour plus a murder mystery all set in Croatia….which has to be a great place to visit. Two flashy longtime girlfriends meet again and one is found floating face down a bit later. Who dunnit? The taxi driver, the girlfriend, the landlord, the cop? Fine mystery and shows how developed Croatia is right down to the shoreline…unlike Santa Cruz so far!
BAD VEGAN: FAME.FRAUD.FUGITIVES (NETFLIX SERIES) (100 RT). Sarma Melngailis is and was the subject of this completely absorbing documentary that beautifully details her rise to fame and fortune as the owner, operator, and main chef in her famous “Pure Food and Wine” restaurant in NYC. She talks about how she stole enormous sums of money from her employees to pay off a swindler she fell for. Bill Clinton, Alec Baldwin, and Howard Stern were among her faithful restaurant followers. Because she is so open and naïve we tend to believe and pity her in her on camera interviews. It’s a totally involving series, go for it!
SPECIAL NOTE….Don’t forget that when you’re not too sure of a plot or need any info on a movie to go to Wikipedia. It lays out the straight/non hype story plus all the details you’ll need including which server (Netflix, Hulu, or PBS) you can find it on. You can also go to Brattononline.com and punch in the movie title and read my take on the much more than 100 movies.
WINDFALL. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (5.6 IMDB) (NO RT SCORE YET). This mess of an attempt to make a movie simply fails totally. It’s about the break in of a hi tech billionaire’s home played by Hollywood’s worst actor Jesse Plemons by confused and unfunny Jason Segel is an insult to cinema. It’s not serious, not funny, poorly acted, ridiculous script and plainly unbelievable. Only Lily Collins as Plemon’s wife is the only plus as she puts a bizarre ending to the wasted effort.
THE WEEKEND AWAY. (NETFLIX MOVIE). (50 RT) (5.6 IMDB). A gorgeous scenic tour plus a murder mystery all set in Croatia….which has to be a great place to visit. Two flashy longtime girlfriends meet again and one is found floating face down a bit later. Who dunnit? The taxi driver, the girlfriend, the landlord, the cop? Fine mystery and shows how developed Croatia is right down to the shoreline…unlike Santa Cruz so far!
THE THING ABOUT PAM. (NBC SERIES) (50 RT). Renee Zellweger is back and she’s involved in a murder or maybe a suicide of one of her best friends in Troy, Missouri and this one fourth comedy and 90 percent dismal crime search rambles on for too many episodes. Judy Greer is also involved but you have to watch many, many NBC ads to see just how it all works out. I addition to the pseudo seriousness it’s a true story and even has a serious voice over which helps little or none at all.
LIES AND DECEIT. (NETFLIX SERIES) (NO RT YET). Fascinating Spanish film dive into who’s telling the truth…was she drugged and raped or was it consenting? A Literature teacher dates a good Doctor and on their first night out they have sex. She goes to great length to destroy him for the raping, he maintains his innocence and the mysterious questioning makes for close watching. The ending is surprising, and well worth watching.
THE ADAM PROJECT. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (70 RT). These times call for more laughs but you won’t get much more than a snicker. Mark Ruffalo is back from his terrible health issue and does his best to make this sci-Fi time travel “comedy” laughable. Ryan Reynolds and Jennifer Garner try to fill in enormous plot holes but can’t do it. There are great special effects and some possible smile times but be aware.
JEWEL THEATRE’S NEXT PRODUCTION. Playing from March 30 through April 24 will be “Remains To Be Seen”. Kate Hawley wrote the play and it’s a world premiere. Their program states…Every five years, a group of old drama department friends reunite. This year it’s at Jack and Clare’s and Clare is dreading it. Are these old friends really still friends, or are they just old habits drained over the years of any genuine fondness or rapport? It is certain that everyone will drink too much and Gordon will talk too much and Sissy will bring her damned little dog when she was specifically asked not to. On top of it all, recent widower Stuart is bringing a mysterious new love. What’s happened to their dreams and old ambitions? Good actors as they may have been, they can’t prevent the truth of their lives from making an appearance. It features Paul Whitworth and Mike Ryan. Go here for tickets and info…
SANTA CRUZ CHAMBER PLAYERS. Are presenting their concert #5 titled The Hero’s Journey: it has music by Beethoven, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Lili Boulanger, and Ben Dorfan. It happens Saturday, April 2, 7:30 pm, and Sunday, April 3, 3:00 pm. Featuring Ben Dorfan, Concert Director and Piano, Jeff Gallagher, Clarinet and Narration, Shannon Delaney D’Antonio, Violin, and Kristin Garbeff on Cello. Go here for tickets directions and precautions…
CABRILLO FESTIVAL OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC. Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music Celebrates its 60th Anniversary Season and Returns to In-Person Concerts 60th Anniversary highlights on July 24-August 7. They include the return to in-person concerts with three world premiere commissions; the live orchestral premiere of Jake Heggie‘s INTONATIONS: Songs from the Violins of Hope featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and violinist Benjamin Beilman; and works commemorating women’s suffrage in America and exploring the recent impact of drought and wildfires in the Western United States.
Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover
Santa Cruz City council received a library update from the Economic Development director at its meeting on March 22nd. Council greeted the update with enthusiasm despite a large elephant in the room, an easy to spot visual manipulation and a questionable grant application in the works.
- Visual Manipulation
The first schematic above is what was said to take a year and a half to produce. The 2- story library in the foreground with 3 stories of attached parking garage topped by another 5 stories of affordable housing behind. This rendition is probably as close to realistic as we will get.
The second schematic was presented to council as “more defined and what it will look like in place.” Only if you are gullible. It is a classic example of the old, fool the eye trick used by developers and their architects, namely to foreground people and trees so that the scale of the building in the background is subjectively reduced. Here though, they have gone a step further in visual manipulation, which is to render the 8 stories behind the 2-story library as invisible from the other side of Center St. I don’t have the surveying tools necessary to prove the point so just use commonsense.
- Questionable Grant Application
The Economic Development director shared with council that the city is applying for a $10 million grant from the Budget Act of 2021 (SB129). According to the Government grant website, this is state money to “prioritize funding for local library facilities located in high poverty areas of the state.” It prioritizes projects “addressing life, safety and other critical maintenance needs.” If awarded, the city plans to augment the $25.5 million from Measure S funds with the $10 million grant monies to help fund a “green” roof, solar panels, modernized HVAC and accessibility features. All worthy additions but hardly what the state has in mind when it says, “life, safety and critical maintenance needs.” Is downtown really a “high poverty area?” I’m sure the city’s grant application will highlight the affordable housing element of the project to squeeze in its relevance to the grant requirements. So some distressed area of the state with real library needs and no funding loses out to a city, which has $25 million to spend and a newly hired project leader to write a carefully crafted grant to posture the city as a “high poverty area.” Reminds me of the city’s 2014 grant application to the Federal Department of Commerce for a $1 million grant in disaster relief funds, claiming the Municipal Wharf had been “severely damaged” by the 2011 tsunami while its contracted Engineering Report documented that the Wharf “suffered no damage” from the tsunami.
- Elephant in the Room
Meanwhile, during the council meeting on this item, scores of volunteers were out gathering local voters’ signatures to qualify for an Initiative to put the library issue to a vote of the people. I’m one of them. I voted for Measure S, hoodwinked by the carefully manipulated guise that it was about funds to renovate the downtown library in its current historic location. Many others made the same mistake. It is likely that there will be enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Yet, back at the council meeting, you wouldn’t know that there is a spanner in the works. The ED director made no mention of it. No council member asked a “what if?” question.
This local citizens’ effort to save the current library site was made as invisible as was the 8 stories of high-rise attached to a new relocated library. Elephants cannot be ignored.
|Gillian Greensite is a long time local activist, a member of Save Our Big Trees and the Santa Cruz chapter of IDA, International Dark Sky Association http://darksky.org Plus she’s an avid ocean swimmer, hiker and lover of all things wild.|
Note: This column was originally written for BrattonOnLine, April 12, 2017. It is reprinted here to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same in five years. Pre-Covid conditions.
University Growth, Mountain Bikes, & Rent Control, Oh My!
Question: How Do You Spell Growth?
When will the city begin exercising its negotiating powers in confronting university student growth? Eighteen thousand students and growing (now 19,500!), and no new bed space. Singles, doubles, triples and quads with a five-day meal plan now range in price from $1,468 (quad) (now 1,791) to $1,967 (now 2,367). This means, if four students live in a “Quad,” the cheapest available dorm, they would collectively pay a total between $5,872-7,868. (But in 2022 these four students would collectively pay between $7,164-$9,468). They used to be able to score a five-bedroom house with a yard near the ocean for less than that, but there aren’t any left because guess who is driving up the rents in Santa Cruz? Of course, the real estate folks are lovin’ it since the norm that’s resulted is to place ever larger numbers of students into single family homes and charge them per head. It ends up being a bargain for students after 1-2 years of high dorm prices. The result is that families are on the edge of extinction in many neighborhoods.
Eco-Hotspots and Mountain Bikes
I went walking this week up Chinquapin Road, past the campus fire station and the UCSC Crown-Merrill apartments, the asphalt soon gives way to an upper campus dirt trail. I was invited for a hike by my old friend, emeritus physics professor, Peter Scott. His two-foot long flowing white beard makes him appear like Moses, and he walks briskly in leading me toward his Promised Land—the “ecological hot spot” that is upper campus. At eighty-plus years old I wondered how he so easily outpaced me on this hike. I follow him to a trailhead that he says is “new” to his eyes.
“Where does it go?” I ask.
“Not sure, but let’s just go and see where it takes us,” he says with a joyful grin.
Peter’s taking me out to look for signs of erosion, tire tracks that have formed new gullies and will lead to future seasonal streams. The tire markings are abundant in this area of campus. There are now herds of mountain bikers among the deer, fox, and mountain lion populations. Many of the spandex-clad riders perhaps do not realize they are traversing an area that the Smithsonian Institute has made a place for on their ecological hot spot map. It is also an area that’s said to have been one of Henry Cowell’s favorite places to ride his horse back in the late 1800’s.
Later, I’m still trailing Peter as we emerge from our forest walk. He wanders toward McLaughlin Drive and I follow. We turn right and walk up Science Hill. Peter marvels at how many students are waiting at both bus stops between Baskin Engineering and the Science Library. There are literally hundreds. It is 5:15pm after all, and a great human tide is about to descend off campus. But as we walk, there are both white campus shuttles and Metro buses passing up the hundreds who are waiting.
Parking on the Hill
I parked my Nissan Leaf in the only campus parking garage (a past transportation struggle itself that I shall take up in a future column). The light blue Leaf sits snuggly in the electric vehicle area. But, what’s this? We arrive to a $50 ticket adorning my windshield. But, I had a parking pass displayed? The infraction seems to be that I did not “plug in” to their dollar-an-hour outlet, and that does not include the five bucks I already paid to park. Who knew plugging in was mandatory? As we made our way down the east side of campus there were two lines of cars gridlocked at the intersection of Coolidge and Hagar, a place where the cows gather to look out across grass and asphalt onto the subsidized faculty housing. No one was moving, except the cows. I wondered in that moment what might ensue when we get to the Long-Range Development Plan’s (LRDP) max of 19,500 students, which leads me to the letter Supervisor Ryan Coonerty submitted to the SC Board of Supes last week. Supervisor Coonerty, seeking to catch up to a fast-moving UCSC train (wreck?) wrote to his colleagues this week subtly observing that the university has become a community behemoth. He points out in the letter that UCSC has now begun the planning process for preparing the next LRDP. It will set limits on future campus growth, and identify the facilities and policies to support this growth. He sought to be measured, and arguably pulled some of his punches. He writes: UCSC provides many benefits to our community, particularly in the cultural and economic areas. On the other hand, UCSC also has impacts in terms of housing, traffic, and water demand. The County has a legitimate and significant interest in the University’s plans and policies for the UCSC campus.
Coonerty makes three points in his letter, his second being a rather gentle and gracious and important “ask” of the university. He writes: University growth in the next LRDP should be no greater than 19,500 students as allowed under the current LRDP and, if additional student growth is approved, it will be minimal and all the students, faculty, and staff resulting from this growth should be housed on campus… Translation: Could they please house their students on campus if they just happen to go over the 19,500 mark, which they are damn near right now. (Update: all of this ended in yet another law suit filed by the city of Santa Cruz over the issue of housing scarcity.
Gown Now Hiding Town?
If there are already 18,763 students (Now 19,500 on March 28, 2022) on campus, and an estimated 650 coming next year…help me do the math. That’s a whopping 19,413! One might say that UCSC has reached the limit, no? Does this mean no more students housed in town after next year (okay, 87 more) as agreed to in the LRDP? Unfortunately, new bed space on campus has been talked about, but I am not aware of any being built. What this figure means for the town of Santa Cruz is huge (Trump voiceover here)! In terms of housing, homeless services, water, Metro Bus service, police calls-for-service, and the competition for jobs we are fast approaching a social, economic, and political day of reckoning. Does the “Gown” now envelop the “Town,” and “the Hill” begin where Highway 17 meets Ocean Street? Or will the city council, and Santa Cruz county board of supervisors representing the people of Santa Cruz, start to push back on our UC guest…just a little bit?! (Update: they pushed back with the hiring of a so-called “Liaison” position to work with parties—administrators, elected officials, and the public–in Sacramento and Santa Cruz. That position was recently axed from both the city and county budgets and a law suit replaced it.
Rent Control, Mountain View-style
The vice-mayor of Mountain View, Lenny Siegel made his way down the coast last Saturday to promote his city’s recently passed rent control initiative. He said it tries to bring some sanity to the housing market by rolling back rents to their October 2015 rates. Siegel, speaking before a crowd of some thirty housing, rent control and wage activists (there was also one city planner present), said he was elected in 2014 and immediately called for a rent control ordinance. But when the city council majority refused to place one on the ballot, activists huddled around him and did it the old-fashioned way. They organized a petition signature campaign and achieved a majority vote in November of 2016, while also electing two more supportive councilmembers. Of course, the California Apartment Association immediately sued, but lost the first-round in court last week according to Siegel. The peninsula vice-mayor contended that there may be a second judicial round over the issue of a rent rollback to 2015, as the new ordinance mandates, but he was holding his breath and clearly relishing their first legal win in the case. Although it was a significant victory for the renters of Mountain View, Siegel sees “rent control as a tool to diminish displacement, not as a long-term solution.” And it doesn’t affect new construction, “only units built before 1995,” he assured the audience. He also said, in order to avoid a rash of arbitrary evictions, any rent control initiative must include a just-cause eviction clause as well. Siegel said that 60% of households in his town were renters, as compared to 56% in Santa Cruz.
Since it was a session on rent control and transportation, Siegel talked about working with Google and how they have expanded the options for getting to work and school for many Mountain View residents. These include increased Caltrain service, bicycle amenities, greater skateboard access to transit (no joke!), lots more buses, and what he hopes the future might look like, Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). He said he’s been pushing Google, or “working with them” on building the “North Bayshore” project, some 10,000 units that will have a .50 required parking space for each bedroom, meaning it will be very transit-oriented. (Siegel supports a .75 parking space per unit because that would be more family-oriented he said.) He’s also working on getting 15%-20% of all of these units HUD—Housing and Urban Development—affordable. He says there exists “entitled” development, and development with the help of “legislative acts.” If the city council passes legislation to assist the developer then the city can demand more from that developer, he said, “and get the city attorney to make that really clear to the council.” Siegel also touted some current legislation, Assembly Bill 1505, that would restore local authority in cities ability to demand a certain percentage of new rental units be built as “affordable.” Heads in the room nodded approvingly over this new affordable housing-friendly bill.
Answer to above question: The UC Regents. Why? Because they are directing more students to Santa Cruz without providing the resources to adequately house and educate them, and that spells G-R-O-W-T-H.
Fifty-five people attended a face-off this past Sunday afternoon between “Our Downtown, Our Future’s” Lira Filippini and John Hall, vs. the Library-Garage project represented by Cynthia Matthews and Martin Gomez. Guess who prevailed?!
Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, and a Santa Cruz City Council member from 1998-2002 and from 2017-2020. Krohn was Mayor in 2001-2002. He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 16 years. On Tuesday evenings at 5pm, Krohn hosts of “Talk of the Bay,” on KSQD 90.7 and KSQD.org His Twitter handle at SCpolitics is @ChrisKrohnSC Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Email Chris at email@example.com
Becky will be back in the saddle next week.
Becky Steinbruner is a 30+ year resident of Aptos. She has fought for water, fire, emergency preparedness, and for road repair. She ran for Second District County Supervisor in 2016 on a shoestring and got nearly 20% of the votes. She ran again in 2020 on a slightly bigger shoestring and got 1/3 of the votes.
Email Becky at KI6TKB@yahoo.com
THE ARRIVAL OF SPRING.
Spring has arrived with its telltale signs around the region. Spring Equinox was Sunday March 20th at 8:33 a.m.– the point at which the hours of the day and night were equal, and the Sun was halfway to its northernmost reach in the sky. Here, along California’s coast, the next few weeks present many natural phenomena that are the essence of our region’s natural springtime.
If you walk along a perennial stream or river soon, in what are called ‘riparian’ areas, look up and around and you’ll see leaves popping out and an interesting quality of light you can get at no other moment of the year, a moment that lasts a very short time. Many of our local riparian forest trees are deciduous – alders, cottonwoods, willows, and sycamores – and they’ve only just decided that it’s time to make their new leaves. All winter long, streamside walks have been suffused with bright wintertime light and a rustle of fallen leaves underfoot. Now, sunlight is turning a warmer hue and the sky view through the tree canopy is becoming dappled by new leaves, soon to be casting a dense, cool shade. From afar, the narrow strips of forest along streams and rivers appear blushed with light spring green. Under that greening canopy, looking up, the leaves appear almost transparent with their lush tender new growth.
Migrating Birds, Back Home
Especially in those riparian woodlands, but also all across the landscape, the tropical songbirds are arriving. Here’s a wonderful internet site that illustrates bird migration in an easy to understand live map. Around here, colorful warblers, grosbeaks and swallows have started arriving from their wintertime haunts in central and South America, thousands of miles away. The year-round chickadees welcome their newly arriving warbler buddies in the willow and alder forests, where they come together and forage in mixed flocks, alerting each other to dangers and particularly rich areas of food. The unfurling of spring growth spurs an abundance of insects feeding on new leaves, flowers, and shoots…these insects, in turn, feed the flocks of birds. So, it makes sense that it’s a good time for the migratory birds to return – for the feast!
Most of Santa Cruz County’s oaks are evergreen, but there is a special kind of oak spring happening in patches here…and in much larger areas not too far away. Santa Cruz County has one deciduous oak forest- at Castle Rock State Park: a big patch of black oaks. The freshly unfolding leaves of black oaks are at first wonderfully colored in the pink-magenta-red spectrum, brightening their intricately cut, baby lobed leaves. Those leaves stand out in the bright green spring landscape.
I travel closest to Henry Coe or Mt. Diablo State Parks to visit blue and valley oak spring where hillsides of blue oak leaves are emerging. You might catch a patch still early in leaf emergence, buds breaking with a blue-purple color that lasts just a day or two. After this odd bud breaking, leaves open to the lightest of spring greens, which lasts a bit longer. Valley oak spring leaves change from pale spring green to a darker color, in a time that seems so very short. For a week or so, you can witness oak spring arising across hillsides and canyon bottoms in the inner coast mountain range and in the foothills ringing the Central Valley. The time where the leaves have just emerged and fresh light-green tinged sunbeams stream through the oak canopies is a great time to spend in the understory of these forests and savannas. This spring kind of light beautifully illuminates the understory grasses, still green in places even in this dry year, and lights up carpets of wildflowers both bright and subtle.
Last week, I wrote about the lupines, but there are many other flowers to enjoy right now. The most colorful and diverse wildflower displays lie miles away- in the desert grasslands of Carrizo Plain east of Paso Robles or in the Sierra foothills from Yosemite south for a hundred miles. Few patches of John Muir’s famed Central Valley wildflower fields remain- you’ll have to sleuth to find those, anymore.
Around here, the concentrated Spring color is in the chaparral, if you can find some. There, it is shrub blooming time. Ceanothus blossoms brighten chaparral with sapphire and more subtle blues as well as pale lilac and white species. Ceanothus bushes are riding the heels of manzanita spring, but you might find some of those still in flower. Chaparral pea, bush poppy, and patches of wildflowers along trails and in open areas make chaparral visits a real treat, right now.
Locally, oak and mixed conifer forest understories are bright with spring blossoms. This is peak forest understory blooming time- most any forest you can find will be dotted with color and buzzing with pollinators. Native iris species have just started blooming; I enjoy looking carefully at iris flowers with their subtle and not so subtle variations in color and patterns. Other understory flowers in bloom right now are the heady-scented false Solomon’s seal, checker lily, and, soon, fairy lanterns.
It seems like all birds are nesting right now. I’ve witnessed pink-purple chattery house finches already hatching young- an early nest to be sure. Friends tell of bush tits weaving their intricate hanging nest baskets, adorning them with lichens and spider webs. Birds of all sorts flit about with nesting material in their beaks. Blue birds have claimed their nest holes. Barn swallows are reclaiming last year’s mud-daubed nests. I’ve recently seen goldfinches harvesting spider webs, presumably to help with their nests.
So, just like that, it has become much more difficult to mow tall grass or trim shrubs and trees if you care about disrupting nesting birds. To tackle any such yard work or land management, you have to intensely observe for some time the patch you are intending to disrupt. To keep from chopping up a nest or nesting bird family, walk around that patch, peer into it, and listen for bird songs. Often, birds will sing alarm calls when you are close to their nests. Nesting season is from now through at least August, a time when many people want to do a lot of fuel control in case fire returns in late summer. Also, many folks I know are just starting to feel like getting to work on their home gardens. It can be a great exercise to observe any spot where you are thinking about working through an entire day to catch any pattern of bird visitation that might mean they are nesting at that site. If you find an active nest, you are very lucky to be able to witness the hatching and fledging of young. In that case, it might not be very long before they are off to fend for themselves and then maybe you can proceed with your work…if the parents don’t try to raise a second family in that same nest this same year.
Spring is a fast-paced time of change, wonderful to watch unfold. It calls for more time outside and more frequent observations of Nature so as not to miss the unfolding beauty.
Grey Hayes is a fervent speaker for all things wild, and his occupations have included land stewardship with UC Natural Reserves, large-scale monitoring and strategic planning with The Nature Conservancy, professional education with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, and teaching undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz. Visit his website at: www.greyhayes.net
Email Grey at firstname.lastname@example.org
March 26 #85 / The Tiger Team
Thursday’s papers brought me some actual news. They told me something I didn’t know.
Apparently, the United States of America has what is called a “Tiger Team,” assembled from within the National Security Council. Exactly what this is, when it was formed, how it operates, who the members are – all the good stuff that you might expect that the citizens of a democratic country should know about the country’s institutions – doesn’t seem to be very clear.
I don’t know what the Wikipedia article will look like by the time you read this blog posting, but Wikipedia is apparently doing some internal jousting about what our Tiger Team is all about. Click that link for a Wikipedia posting that indicates (at least as I am writing this post) that there is internal conflict, at Wikipedia, about what should be said about our “Tiger Team.” Reliable information appears to be scarce.
The New York Times ran a story on March 24, 2022, which alerted me to the existence of our Tiger Team. You can click right here for that article. That article will tell you, paywall permitting, that the Tiger Team is “making contingency plans lest Russia use its most potent weapons.”
You get the picture, right? Our “Tiger Team” is working out what the United States will do if Vladimir Putin starts using nuclear weapons. Or chemical weapons. That, too, if he were to decide to do that.
I am reproducing, below, the text that was inside a highlighted “pull quote” inserted into the long columns of type that comprised The Times’ article:
A ‘Tiger Team’ looks at an array of possible escalatory actions.
My immediate response to this news about the “Tiger Team” is that whatever “planning” we are doing, in response to what Russia is doing in Ukraine, should not be centered on what sort of escalatory actions might be available. I would like to think my blog posting from yesterday ought to have been convincing on that point.
We and the whole world need to be talking, day and night, about deescalatory actions! That’s what we need now – and we will need such deescalatory actions even more if Russia continues and amplifies its current approach (which seems to be aimed at reducing major Ukrainian cities to rubble by aerial bombardment – a little “mini-Dresden” approach).
Escalating actions in Ukraine are leading us, inevitably, towards total destruction. That is the “Back to the Stone Age” approach I discussed yesterday.
Back to the Stone Age is not the direction in which we want or need to go.
If our “Tiger Team” is our “best and the brightest,” as one would think it should be, then that Tiger Team needs to be brainstorming how we can start heading the world in the opposite direction from its current “Back to the Stone Age destination.
We need to get that “Tiger Team” working on an array of possible non-military, non-confrontational actions that will deescalate, not escalate, what appears to be a race to the brink.
Gary Patton is a former Santa Cruz County Supervisor (20 years) and an attorney for individuals and community groups on land use and environmental issues. The opinions expressed are Mr. Patton’s. You can read and subscribe to his daily blog at www.gapatton.net
Email Gary at email@example.com
NOT A LOT OF WISDOM SHOWN IN STAMPEDE TO THE PRIMARIES
Rumors of an enraged bison rampaging at a United Airlines boarding gate in Bozeman, MT brought red-eyed hunters and their gun-racked pickup trucks careening into the terminal parking lot, only to find Senator Ted Cruz rolling on the carpet, while bellowing insults at the desk personnel, because he had arrived too late to check in for his departure flight. Airport police and United employees settled him down, helping him repack his strewn ties, shirts and underwear, along with a couple of ‘Binkies’, that he insisted were not his, although accepting them to ‘pass along to some poor mother’s distressed child.’ He was booked on a later flight, and was heard to say, as he brushed the dust and dirt from his clothing, “This would never have happened in Cancun where they know who I am. I may have to take this up with ‘corporate!” Yep, those sudden snow flurries must have weighed heavily in Teddy’s plan to flee Bozeman!
It becomes clearer now why Cruz and eight other Republican legislators asked the Justice Department not to prosecute unruly airline passengers back in February, even after 5,981 such reports were logged by the FAA in the past year…so as not to besmirch the reputations of the biting, punching, peeing, violent travelers, who might have intentions of repeating their actions? Placing disrupters on the no-fly list is akin to equating them with terrorists, which is a step too far for Cruz and the co-signers of the letter to AG Garland. So, for your next flight be prepared to cope with carry-on baggage throwers, cockpit- and exit-door pounders, fisticuffs, and ear biters. How about a ‘nice Chianti’ with that, Senator?
Cruz was in a rush to return to D.C. to make a spectacle of himself in the hearings for Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, alongside Senators Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton, a trio we are assured of seeing in the run up to the Republican Party’s presidential primary campaigns. The mindlessness in the questioning of nominee Jackson doesn’t bode well for the three senators, either for minimizing the judge’s credentials, or for the advancement of their own political profiles. Constant senseless interruptions by the questioners had to be refereed by committee chair, Senator Dick Durbin, as Senator Marsha Blackburn entered the fray with more foolishness, and Lindsey Graham performed his trademark southern preacher routine, building to a crescendo before slamming his folders to the desk and cavorting out of the chamber in feigned disgust and indignation. He did slow down long enough to peek over Ted Cruz’s shoulder, gazing at his phone screen where the Texas loudmouth was checking the Twitter feedback on his performance at waving irrelevant children’s books in Judge Jackson’s face.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas was released from a week’s hospital stay after treatment for an infection, only to be facing another dilemma after his wife, Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas confirmed that she had attended the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally in Washington on January 6, 2021. Maintaining that she had left the rally crowd before its march to the riot and insurrection at the Capitol steps, eyewitnesses claimed that she was seen at the Willard Hotel that day, the supposed ‘command center’ for those responsible for the violent protest to overturn the election by disrupting the official declaration of Joe Biden’s win by the joint session of Congress. While calls rise for Judge Thomas’ resignation, impeachment, or at the least, recusal from any cases involving the January 6 mayhem, the Thomases remain tight-lipped, with conservatives answering the call to stand firm for the Justice.
According to Gabe Roth of ‘Fix the Court’, a group seeking more transparency from Supreme Court Justices, “Federal recusal law says that any justice ‘shall disqualify’ if their impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” ‘Ginni’ says, “The legal lane is my husband’s, and I don’t involve him in my work. Like so many married couples, we share many of the same ideals, principles and aspirations for America, but we have our separate careers.” And, who would believe that her Q-Anon subliminal recordings played at bedtime would have any sway over any pending court decision resting on her husband’s plate, anyway?
Causing some consternation within the J-6 Committee is the revelation of November 2020 post-election emails between ‘Ginni’ Thomas and Mark Meadows, where she pleads to Trump’s Chief of Staff to fight on against ‘the greatest heist in American history’ and keep Trump in office, despite Biden’s initially being declared the winner. The work of the J-6 select committee has already come before the Supreme Court, when it did not stand in the way of the release of thousands of documents from the Trump White House, despite the former president suing to keep them secret under executive privilege. The vote on the matter was 8-1, with only Thomas dissenting. Shall we call that a Q-One?
Meanwhile, in white picket fenced North Carolina, 26-year old, far-right Representative Madison Cawthorn has inadvertently come up with a new campaign slogan or two, for his upcoming primary. He has called Volodymyr Zelenskyy a ‘thug’, and Ukraine a ‘corrupt and woke’ country as he reaches out to Trumpers, and calls teetotaler Nancy Pelosi an alcoholic based on a doctored video of one of her speeches. Already established is his love of guns as seen on a video feed of his cleaning a pistol during a congressional hearing, and his bloviation about being armed for protection during the assault on the Capitol building on January 6, 2021…the first armed Kraken to pass through the doors on that day? Twice charged with speeding and driving with a revoked license, the home-schooled, one-semester college dropout (education is a scam) admits he has a lot of aggression, loves Newt Gingrich, and sees himself as a charismatic zealot, ‘with not a lot of wisdom.’ Quite a collection of adjectives for a once-successful candidate who now has many former supporters running against him. ‘CAWTHORN – NOT A LOT OF WISDOM FOR NORTH CAROLINA!’, is a slogan that would work equally as well for all primary candidates, and the printer would have a goldmine in bumper sticker production alone. Brilliant, Madison!
Dale Matlock, a Santa Cruz County resident since 1968, is the former owner of The Print Gallery, a screenprinting establishment. He is an adherent of The George Vermosky school of journalism, and a follower of too many news shows, newspapers, and political publications, and a some-time resident of Moloka’i, Hawaii, U.S.A., serving on the Board of Directors of Kepuhi Beach Resort. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
EAGAN’S SUBCONSCIOUS COMICS. View classic inner view ideas and thoughts with Subconscious Comics a few flips down. And do note Tim’s new book release news at the very top of this issue!!
EAGAN’S DEEP COVER. See Eagan’s “Deep Cover” down a few pages. As always, at TimEagan.com you will find his most recent Deep Cover, the latest installment from the archives of Subconscious Comics, and the ever entertaining Eaganblog.
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
~George Orwell, 1984
“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. (Sonnet XCVIII)”
“They came on one of April’s most brilliant days–a day as sparkling as a newly-washed lemon…a day when even the shadows were a melange of blue and orange and jade, like the shadows that poured from the tipsy brush of Monet.”
~Beverley Nichols, A Thatched Roof
TW: suicide, depression
“It is no measure of a good health to be well adjusted to a sick society.”
Button Poetry has some good stuff. Thios one is by Andrea Gibson and worth a listen.
Snail Mail: Bratton Online
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